Dividend paying stocks like Nathan's Famous, Inc. (NASDAQ:NATH) tend to be popular with investors, and for good reason - some research suggests a significant amount of all stock market returns come from reinvested dividends. Yet sometimes, investors buy a popular dividend stock because of its yield, and then lose money if the company's dividend doesn't live up to expectations.
With only a three-year payment history, and a 2.3% yield, investors probably think Nathan's Famous is not much of a dividend stock. Many of the best dividend stocks typically start out paying a low yield, so we wouldn't automatically cut it from our list of prospects. The company also returned around 2.7% of its market capitalisation to shareholders in the form of stock buybacks over the past year. Before you buy any stock for its dividend however, you should always remember Warren Buffett's two rules: 1) Don't lose money, and 2) Remember rule #1. We'll run through some checks below to help with this.
Companies (usually) pay dividends out of their earnings. If a company is paying more than it earns, the dividend might have to be cut. Comparing dividend payments to a company's net profit after tax is a simple way of reality-checking whether a dividend is sustainable. Looking at the data, we can see that 48% of Nathan's Famous' profits were paid out as dividends in the last 12 months. This is a medium payout level that leaves enough capital in the business to fund opportunities that might arise, while also rewarding shareholders. Besides, if reinvestment opportunities dry up, the company has room to increase the dividend.
Another important check we do is to see if the free cash flow generated is sufficient to pay the dividend. Of the free cash flow it generated last year, Nathan's Famous paid out 41% as dividends, suggesting the dividend is affordable. It's encouraging to see that the dividend is covered by both profit and cash flow. This generally suggests the dividend is sustainable, as long as earnings don't drop precipitously.
Consider getting our latest analysis on Nathan's Famous' financial position here.
Before buying a stock for its income, we want to see if the dividends have been stable in the past, and if the company has a track record of maintaining its dividend. The company has been paying a stable dividend for a few years now, but we'd like to see more evidence of consistency over a longer period. During the past three-year period, the first annual payment was US$1.0 in 2017, compared to US$1.4 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 12% a year over that time.
We're not overly excited about the relatively short history of dividend payments, however the dividend is growing at a nice rate and we might take a closer look.
Dividend Growth Potential
While dividend payments have been relatively reliable, it would also be nice if earnings per share (EPS) were growing, as this is essential to maintaining the dividend's purchasing power over the long term. Earnings have grown at around 2.1% a year for the past five years, which is better than seeing them shrink! Nathan's Famous is paying out less than half of its earnings, which we like. However, earnings per share are unfortunately not growing much. Might this suggest that the company should pay a higher dividend instead?
To summarise, shareholders should always check that Nathan's Famous' dividends are affordable, that its dividend payments are relatively stable, and that it has decent prospects for growing its earnings and dividend. Firstly, we like that Nathan's Famous has low and conservative payout ratios. Second, earnings growth has been ordinary, and its history of dividend payments is shorter than we'd like. Nathan's Famous has a number of positive attributes, but it falls slightly short of our (admittedly high) standards. Were there evidence of a strong moat or an attractive valuation, it could still be well worth a look.
Investors generally tend to favour companies with a consistent, stable dividend policy as opposed to those operating an irregular one. Still, investors need to consider a host of other factors, apart from dividend payments, when analysing a company. Just as an example, we've come accross 2 warning signs for Nathan's Famous you should be aware of, and 1 of them is significant.
Looking for more high-yielding dividend ideas? Try our curated list of dividend stocks with a yield above 3%.
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This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. We aim to bring you long-term focused analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Simply Wall St has no position in any stocks mentioned.
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